Friday, July 31, 2015

Fashion of the Future!

Saw something interesting at Public Domain Review about the future of fashion. Actually, the imagined future of fashion in the 1890's based on a book from future (1993). W. Cade Gall, the author, found this book, which tells of the immutable laws that govern the waves that move through fashion.

Let's see what the future book tells us about fashion in the Roaring '20s

Hmmm. Pretty close

Now, here's what I think is usable (besides the images, which will figure prominently in what I write for Terra Obscura, the land of the Philosopher Kings in Nod) in the article.

Random Fashion Table
For the most part, when I write cultures in Nod I base them on real world cultures (or perceptions of real world cultures). Why? Because a thoroughly make-believe world requires the players to learn a tremendous amount of made up bullshit about things that don't exist, instead of them focusing on having fun drinking beer, rolling dice, and playing a game. That said, I do like to throw a few weird civilizations out there to keep things interesting, and the little table of waves might be useful for generating ideas about how they dress. The book conveniently gives us six waves - to whit:

1. Angustorial / Wobbling
2. Severe / Recuperative
3. Latorial / Decided
4. Tailor-Made / Opaque
5. Ebullient / Bizarre
6. Hysterical / Angustorial

The first term refers to the type, the second to the tendency. And no - I don't know what "the tendency" means for sure. And "angustorial" and "latorial" - I can't find definitions for those words. Perhaps they meant augustorial? Oh hell, maybe it's not that useful after all. Or perhaps I just need to make a few changes:

1. August and senatorial style as dictated by the elite; many ornaments, rich fabrics (and lots of it) and textures, meant to look refined, stately and elegant
2. Severe and simple, a reaction to the previous style that is casual and not ornamental in the least, focusing on solid colors, simple fabrics and clean, classic lines
3. A loosening of styles, fuller and blowsier, with sedate patterns, with a bit more trim (but not the ornamentation of phase 1); fashion is highly dictated at this point, and weirdos are barely tolerated
4. Much as before, but quality is the watch word - clothes are tailor-made and well fitted, and no two suits or gowns are quite the same
5. Ebullience and joy reign supreme, as a new generation takes advantage of the loosening of rules and introduces doodads, geegaws and bright colors and patterns to the mix - Ah youth!
6. The ebullience of before becomes a hysterical riot of color and pattern, with over complicated and impractical designs and a high degree of ornamentation; even now, the elite are beginning to create the august style that will appear next ...

It Came from the Sky!

Roll d30 if your players are futzing around in the wilderness boring you to death, and inflict one of the following random encounters on them ...

1. A silver bird dropping silver daggers (low quality, but useful given the plague of apparitions in the neighborhood)

2. A tiny meteorite (1% chance of hitting somebody)

3. The sound of trumpets (all LG characters receive bless for 24 hours)

4. Waves of crimson sound that warn of … Murder!

5. A red dragon spelling out “Eat at Joes” in smoke

6. A green luminescence that causes all plant-life to grow wild (per entangle), causes 1 in 10 trees to turn into treants, and heals 1d6 points of damage to all living things

7. Acid rain (1d6 acid damage per round, item saves for objects, lasts 1d6 minutes)

8. A silver canister of the mi-go (holds the brain of a 1d4+3 level magic-user)

9. A frozen black sphere (when it thaws in one minute it becomes a black ooze)

10. 3 and 20 blackbirds, recently released from a pie and bent on revenge against humanity (treat as enraged bat swarm with 2 attacks per round)

11. A flight of pegasi, willing to give good characters a lift (I won’t say exactly what they’ll do to the evil, but it involves gaining altitude first)

12. A senile old giant owl who has mistook the halfling or gnome for a giant rat

13. A WW1-era biplane with a confused pilot

14. A disk of glowing orange metal crewed by 20 ultra-troglodytes (troglodytes in shiny orange jumpsuits with bulging brains, genius IQ’s and psychic powers)

15. An errant catapult stone (1% chance it lands on a character, dealing 10d6 damage)

16. A sylph floating gently to the ground, love in her eyes and a song in her heart - she is soon joined by many others, who put on an impromptu ballet until a bunch of satyrs show up to ruin everything

17. A flight of seven harpies with a barbed net

18. The head of a frost giant, recently knocked from its should a few miles away by the hammer of the mighty Thor (or whatever native giant species and thunder god works in your campaign)

19. Confetti – it rains for hours

20. A rain of frogs, thrown into the atmosphere by a water spout

21. Sky pirates on a flying clipper – they bungee down to attack and plunder

22. An angel of the Lord, with grave tidings – the nearest metropolis is to be laid low for its sins

23. Two dozen giant bees, looking for a new home, their old one having been sacked by a clan of werebears

24. A holy sword, which embeds itself in the ground; it can only be removed by the rightful
Emperor-Pope of All Paladins (first paladin to 20th level can claim it)

25. A black comet that sends out waves of revulsion and decrepitude

26. A black cloud, moving fast and against the wind and carrying with it the sounds of a clash of swords – perhaps a combatant will wing down to pick up the adventurers as reinforcements

27. 15 bird men – they seek ornaments for their queen, who is brooding

28. The Imam of the Jinn, on a magic prayer rug (treat as magic carpet), seeking converts to the Lawful Neutral faith and warriors for his crusade against the efreet

29. Mana from heaven (treat as triple strength create food spell)

30. A storm giant’s castle on a floating island; it’s on a crash course that will cause havoc and destruction about one mile from here (and it creates one heck of a great dungeon to explore)

Tuesday, July 28, 2015

Grit & Vigor ... Almost Reality

Over the past weekend, I finished Grit & Vigor. Okay, 99% of it. Just need to rewrite an intro and do an appendix on how it can interact with Blood & Treasure. My first round of editing is done, though, and I have to say I'm pretty jazzed. When I write these things, I often write (and re-write) them in pieces, somewhat in the way movies are filmed. Reading through it to edit it was the first time I'd really look at it from cover to cover, and overall I was happy for two reasons:

1) I kept getting ideas for adventures and characters while I was reading

2) I kept statting characters in my head, and they made sense with the rules I'd written

G&V has been a pretty long time coming. It started life as Action X, but I never really liked the name and the game, as it stood then essentially a reworking of the Modern SRD into a more rules lite vehicle, had no soul. The shift to Grit & Vigor and "manly adventure stories" helped quite a bit - gave the game some direction and made it more fun for me.

What I thought I would do with this post is give a somewhat extensive "table of contents" for the game, so people could see what it looks like currently. My comments are in brackets. Here goes ...

I. Rugged Individualists: Creating Your Character

... Ability Score [the basic six - you know them]
... Character Backgrounds [this replaces "race", and consists of random rolls on tables to determine the four big moments in your character's young life, and the feats or knacks or ability bonuses that go along with them]
... Character Classes
... ... Fighters [with sub-classes Boxer, Commando, Dragoon, Dreadnought, Duelist, Gunfighter, Man-At-Arms, Ranger, Samurai and Sapper]
... ... Brain [with sub-classes Archaeologist, Gentleman Detective and Inventor]
... ... Rogue [with sub-classes Assassin, Gentleman, Grifter and Gumshoe]
... ... Daredevil [with sub-classes Ace Reporter, Barnstormer, Big Game Hunter, Cowboy, Gearhead, Jungle Lord, Medic, Spaceman and Vigilante]
[The sub-classes are all really just variations of the main class, so they're pretty simple for the most part and don't take up much room]
... Feats [more integral to G&V than B&T]
... Character Details
... ... Alignment
... ... Drives and Hungers
... ... Personality and Description
... ... Patrons

II. Tools of the Trade: Gear and Gadgets for the Adventurous Man
... [this includes weapons, protective gear, artillery, miscellaneous gear and vehicles]

III. Man Versus: Overcoming Challenges and Providing Sound Thrashings
... [the basic rules of play, including rules for intoxicants and radiation]
... Tasks
... ... Charisma: Cant, Communicate, Don Disguise, Etiquette, Gather Intelligence, Handle Animal, Hypnotize, Influence People, Perform, Throw Voice
... ... Constitution: Endure
... ... Dexterity: Drive Car, Escape Bonds, Gymnastics, Hide in Shadows, Move Silently, Open Lock, Pilot Aircraft, Ride Bike, Ride Mount, Shoot Billiards, Ski, Sky Dive, Sleight of Hand, Surf, Woodworking
... ... Intelligence: Appraise Value, Bomb Target, Chemistry, Crack Code, Demolitions, Display Knowledge, Electronics, Forge Document, Gunnery, Mechanics, Practice Vocation, Survive Outdoors, Treat Injury
... ... Strength: Athletics, Bend Bars & Lift Gates, Break Down Doors, Climb Sheer Surfaces, Jump, Swim
... ... Wisdom: Gamble, Listen at Doors, Prospect, Seafaring, Search, Spelunk, Track
... Combat [includes the special maneuvers Airplane Spin, Bum Rush, Dazzle, Gouge, Ranged Disarm and Ranged Sunder]
... ... Zero-Gravity Combat
... Damage & Death [includes rules for "the death scene"]
... Vehicles [I think I have some very simple rules for vehicle combat and chases here - pretty happy with them]

IV. Bold Ventures: Designing Adventures and Campaigns
... Genres: Crime, Espionage, Expeditions into the Unknown, Horror, Kung-Fu, Mystery & Suspense, Siege, War
... Timeline of Adventure: this covers the decades from 1880 to 1929, with notes on the overall happenings of the decade, fashion, adventure ideas, the price of gold and silver and then a year-by-year timeline of events that lend themselves to the game (wars, robberies, expeditions, discoveries, inventions) and stats for weapons and vehicles (and other things) introduced in that year, and some NPC stats worked in (see example to left)

V. Men & Monsters: Fearsome Foes to Fight and Conquer
... [the typical monster section, with an emphasis on animals and humans, but some cryptids and science-fantasy stuff thrown in as well]

Appendix A: The Supernatural
... [the book includes mentions of the supernatural throughout, especially in the Men & Monsters section, but I decided to separate the supernatural rules from the main rules in this appendix so people would understand that they are truly optional]
... Psychic Phenomena [rules for the chances a character is psychic, and list and description of psychic powers]
... Supernatural Sub-Classes [Occultist, Psychic and Vampire Hunter - all sub-classes of the Brain]

So that's the book, as it now stands. There's some more layout work to do, a bit more playtesting to do, and a bit more writing to do. At the moment, it looks good for a Fall release.

Sunday, July 26, 2015

Dragon By Dragon - August 1979

It's August 1979, and you're standing in front of a magazine rack. Which magazine do you choose?

Well, too bad. I'm not reviewing Playboy (more's the pity). You're going to have to be happy with The Dragon #28.

We open this issue with this:

"It is fun to be unique. It is fun to be part of something unique. Sometimes, though, some of us forget just how strange all of this stuff is to the uninitiated. In the eyes of the mainstream of contemporary culture, what we do — play “games” — is decidedly different. Some would even
call it strange ..."

Kask ain't just whistlin' Dixie. The funny thing is - as much as Gary and Dave's little game has influence modern video games, those of us who still play the pen & paper varieties are still considered strange. People I work with are always a little surprised - not sure quite how to react - when I mention that I write role playing game books. Interesting to hear in the comments how many of us are "open gamers".

Well, this issue opens up with a biggee - "The Politics of Hell" by Alexander Von Thorn. Van Thorn has an author page at, and (if it's him) a Twitter account. If you have any questions about Hellish politics, feel free to contact the author directly.

The first line is: "Author’s note: The following article cannot be considered the official doctrine of either Advanced Dungeons and Dragons or the Roman Catholic Church. However, it is compatible with AD&D, and except for the parts about Asmodeus it is not in conflict with works on demonology as generally accepted by Catholic exorcists, thus enjoying tacit approval by the Church." You know, just in case you were worried about your AD&D game rubbing the Catholic exorcists the wrong way.

The article pretty much sets up the political landscape of AD&D's version of Hell, as we came to know it through the Monster Manuals, with Asmodeus on the top of the heap. It also includes stats for Satan, Belial, and Astaroth (with art).

Next, Jake Jaquet presents The Dungeon Master's Guide - possibly the most useful RPG book ever made. The article is a collection of comments and reminiscences by people who were involved with the project, including Jeff Leason, Len Lakofka, Lawrence Schick, Jean Wells, Allan Hammack, Mike Carr, James Ward, Darlene Pekul and Gary Gygax, in an exclusive interview with The Dragon (I'm sure it was quite a coup to land that interview!)

Up next, Dan Bromberg writes "A Short Course in D&D". This is an interesting article about folks at Cranbrook Prep School setting up a 2 week course in D&D for incoming freshmen. They ended up charging $1.50, plus another $1.50 for low impact dice (the DM didn't have to pay). The course books were a copy of Basic D&D and the Player's Handbook. Given the fact that I still find rules in AD&D I didn't know existed, a course like this might have been useful to me when I was a kid.

Time for some war gaming - "The Cavalry Plain at Austerlitz" by Bill Fawcett. This is a nice description of the battle that pitted the cavalry of Napoleon's France against Austria and Russia. It is followed up by an article on "Simulating the Cavalry Plain", also by Mr. Fawcett. He gives a nice overview of the order of battle on both sides, along with victory conditions for each side. Highly useful for folks playing Napoleonic war games.

I didn't get interested in the Napoleonics until I started reading Military History magazine in college. Now I'm super excited to get GRIT & VIGOR published so I can write up a Napoleonic supplement to it.

Next up - alignment time! Gary Gygax opines on Evil: Law vs. Chaos in "From the Sorcerer's Scroll". In this, he defines the characteristics of Chaotic Evil and Lawful Evil ... and then let's Neutral Evil fall where it may. He defines "evil" as the desire to advance self over others by whatever means possible, and always by the foulest means possible (emphasis mine). I like this, because it makes no qualms about what evil characters are in AD&D - they're villains. They're not misunderstood, and they're not necessarily realistic depictions of human beings. Just theatrical villains you can take some enjoyment in beating the crap out of (or in playing, if you're in the mood to foreclose on orphans and tie maidens to railroads). The Law vs. Chaos element is the desire to create a world ruled by evil vs. evil for its own sake. Now you know.

Dig this ad:

Looks like Judge's Guild got into computer games early. The only thing I can't figure is whether or not this was a licensed game. Here's the article on the game at Wikipedia ... and here, apparently, is a clone ...

Allen Hammack writes "Six Guns & Sorcery". If this sounds familiar, you might remember it from the old DMG, where they provided guides for conversions between AD&D and Boot Hill and AD&D and Gamma World. If you need a quick bravery stat, you can use the following:

Subtract the following from 100 for each class:

Cleric: 2 x Wisdom
Fighter and Monk: 1 x Wisdom
Magic-User: 3 x Wisdom
Thief: 4 x Wisdom

Maybe more interesting are the damage dice for some Old West weapons - Derringers do 1d4 damage, other hand guns do 1d8, shotguns do 1d10 and dynamite sticks do 4d6 damage. With these values, I wonder why they were so worried about including firearms in D&D.

Phil Neuscheler now writes "Fantasy Smith's Notebook". This was intended as a series of articles concerning the modeling of miniatures for D&D.

"When you have small amounts of cash to start with, you may wish to get adventurer character figures first, and use a substitute for monsters in your miniature games. After all, you will continue to play your own character(s) no matter what kind of monsters you encounter, so you’ll use the character figure more often than any individual monster. Monsters are simply not cost effective."

The article provides contact information for several miniature makers active at the time. I wondered how many were still in the business today:

U.S. Airfix - I remember these guys making airplane models - maybe snap-together models. They still produce figures, though I'm not sure they have any ancients or medievals anymore.

Archive Miniatures - These guys appear to be defunct.

Garrison (Greenwood & Ball) - Sadly closed for business. Name sounds more like a law firm.

Grenadier - These folks appear to now be owned by Mirliton. Free downloads at the link.

Hinchcliffe Models Ltd - Still alive, but owned by Hinds Figures Ltd.

Heritage Models Inc - now defunct.

Jack Scruby's Miniatures - there's a Jack Scruby line at HistoriFigs. Also found a catalog from 1972 at Amazon.

Martian Miniatures - couldn't find them online.

Miniature Figurines Ltd (Minifigs) - alive and kickin' with a Tripod site.

Ral Partha Enterprises - still around, and pushing the resurgence of Chaos Wars. I always wanted to get into these minis when I was a kid, but the money just wasn't there.

Next up is "Armies of the Renaissance - Part IV The English" by Nick Nascati. This covers the Welsh longbow and its importance to the rise of English military power, as well as their deadly combination of bill, pike and musket. They wore less armor than other armies, but appear to have had a high level of discipline. Also notable is the adoption of the red coat in the late 1600's.

You might remember Lance Harrop from last week's installment of Dragon By Dragon - this week we're looking at his "Elvish Tactics in Fantasy Miniatures". Not surprisingly, elvish tactics are all about speed and maneuverability. Lance gives us the following order of battle:

The light archers, light horse archers and light cavalry are there to harass the enemy. The light archers are protected by the light infantry. The medium infantry are the main line of troops, with the medium archers behind them. The elite heavy infantry are the reserve, and the medium mounted infantry and heavy mounted infantry are fast deployment reserves. The medium cavalry are the shock troops, and the heavy infantry are the elite elvish knights.

As always, Mr. Harrop gives a few notes about elves:

* They use silver to denote rank, not gold
* They do not use red or black leather
* High elves wear blue and white, middle elves green and white, low elves dark green and tan, sea elves sea green and sky blue and dark elves browns and blacks
* Elves are concerned with having a unified front

Next, Gygax sounds off in Up On A Soap Box - in this edition, on manufacturer conventions. You can imagine how fascinating this article is 35 years after it was written.

In Out on a Limb, we present this week's Great Moments in Nerd Rage:

"This brings me to a point that I didn’t want to write about when I started this letter: spell points. I HAVE HAD ENOUGH OF FORGETTING SPELLS!!!!!!!" - Mark Jacobs

And in response:

"Gee, it’s always so much fun getting letters from unproven critics who think they have some inner track on “the way of things.” As to what may or may not be absurd, let me say this; if you don’t like it, why give me all of this grief? D&D has always made a point of being nothing more than guidelines for structuring a game, and stating so."

Oh wait - some more:

"Your argument that healing is too slow is specious, and naive. You obviously have never been in a combat situation yourself, nor have you apparently even participated in something such as the Society for Creative Anachronism’s mock battles."

God, I love this hobby (and God - I hate this hobby).

We now have another installment of The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar. An excerpt:

We have next a full board game by Tom Wham - The Awful Green Things from Outer Space. I won't go into much detail here - the rules look pretty simple, the game is tied in with Znutar above, and I love that they used to do things like this in The Dragon.

Len Lakofka's Bazaar of the Bizarre presents Potions of Forgetfulness, Rings of Silence, the Horn of Hadies (their spelling, not mine), the Chime of Warning, the Apparatus of Spiky Owns (a play on Spike Jones, God bless him), Leomund's Plate and Cup, and a slick little guide for generating random magic-user spell books. To whit:

Jon Mattson now gives us "Level Progression for Players and Dungeon Masters". This is actually a guide to how many XP players and Dungeon Master's earn for playing different games. I kinda love this - would be a blast to introduce to the blogosphere. I have to reproduce the level charts:

"Giants in the Earth" time! Lawrence Schick and Tom Moldvay (my hero) give us the following literary giants given AD&D stats:

Leigh Brackett's Eric John Stark (15th level fighter) - I have to admit, I was bored to tears by the one Eric John Stark book I read; they also include stats for Northhounds (4 HD)

Lord Dunsany's Welleran (A Lawful Good ghost that possesses anyone who picks up his sword)

James M. Ward now gives us "Monty Strikes Back". He was the original Monty Hall Dungeon Master, you might remember, who gave out tons of great treasure. This is another story of a game played with many of the early entrants into the hobby.

"We were on a winter level tonight and were far from pleased. It was Friday, one of our usual D&D nights and we were going down into a refrigerated level of Monty’s that we had found weeks before. We had all made fur coats for our figures and most of the group was going down. Robert, Jake, and Dave (I) (Tractics boys through and through) were going down as their 20th level fighters; Brian (a tractics lover too, but a fanatic on Western Gunfight) was going as his 21st level thief/fighter/cleric dwarf; Ernie, Dave (II), and I were going down as wizards of the 18th level (just little guys); Freddie was his stupid high level sword carried by a flesh golem from Jake’s golem squadron; Tom and Tim went as druids (probably because they liked all types of herbs)."
In "The Dragon's Augury", we have reviews of Divine Right by TSR, Sorcerer by SPI, and a book, America B.C.: Ancient Settlers in the New World by Barry Fell. Still for sale at Amazon, and four stars!

"The Dragon's Bestiary" gives us Jake Jaquet's Slinger. Here are the basic stats in B&T format:

Tiny Magical Beast, Low Intelligence, HD 3, AC 17, ATK 1 spine (1d4 + poison IV), MV 60, F15 R11 W15, AL N, XP 300.

These little buggers, which look like iguanas, can throw their tail spines about 20'. They are vulnerable to fire.

Fineous Fingers, Fred and Charly are stealing a Palantir in this issue.

And that wraps up issue #28. It's always nice to leave with a song, and since Spike Jones was mentioned ...

Friday, July 24, 2015

New Awesome Adventure from Anders Hedenbjörk Lager!

Hey folks - just a quick note this morning to direct your attention to a new, FREE, 80-page adventure for Blood & Treasure by Anders Hedenbjörk Lager. This guy does good stuff, and with a price like FREE, how could you lose.

It's called Come to Daddy, and it is part two of the Per Aspera Ad Inferi trilogy and is the follow up to No Country for Old Men, which was excellent. Here's a blurb:

“The battle with the barrow-draugr had taken the most of our energy, and we barely escaped with our lives. The gnome was sorely injured in the leg and everyone was frozen to the bone. The horses and most of our supplies were still left in the draugr cave, where we had to abandon it to save our hides. Times looked bleak and despair had set in for real when Halross shouted:

“-Hey, I see a farm over there”

A farm out here in the outback? Strange, but in our current situation the prospect of a warm fire and some hot soup seemed like a gift from heaven. Slowly, we started our descent alone the snow filled slopes towards the cosy farm.”

Boys and girls, we're talking about crazy viking mutant cannibal killers. If you don't want to sink your teeth into that, I don't know why you're here.

Let's get into some specifics. The book looks great - good layout, art, etc. There are some nice pieces by David Lewis Johnson, and everything is clear and easy to read.

The adventure itself may be tricky to run, and is a bit different than many you have played. You have a family of cannibals attempting to lull the characters into feeling safe on their farm, and then slowly picking them off, one by one, using all manner of tactics. You'll have to set this one up properly - it has to seem as though the farm is a safe place and a curiosity, rather than a side adventure. This is one that might kill off characters, so make sure you have a group of players that know its a game, know the character is a piece of paper, and enjoy the challenge. The adventure is designed for characters from 4th to 6th level.

As for exploration, you have a wooded valley and the farm, along with a farm house and tool shed, as well as an entry into the Nightmare Realm. There is an old ruin of the temple used by the nightmare cultists, and all manner of frightening things to encounter there. Ultimately, the PC's need to defeat the Mother of Lies, and this isn't easy. If the players are very determined, they'll probably have to settle for survival and getting the heck out of there.

Besides the adventure, you also have many extras - The Ritual of Banishment - a form of ritual magic used to defeat the Mother of Lies; a few monsters, many unique (such as the aforementioned Mother of Lies, a were-worg, "the severed ones" and multiple ghösts) and rules for horror and madness (with some great random tables), some new traps, new magic items and spells, alternative healing rules, and rules that expand the poison (and drugs) in Blood & Treasure very nicely. Honestly, if you play B&T or just like it, you'll get plenty from Come to Daddy even if you never play the adventure.

Seriously, Anders is knocking it out of the park with these babies, so please check them out and give them a play through with your group, whatever system you play. He also has a version specifically statted for Swords & Wizardry as well, and of course either will work with any old school game system.

Come to Daddy gets my absolute highest recommendation! Download it HERE.

Sunday, July 19, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - July 1979

I just drove in from Cedar City, and boy is my car tired.

Vaughn and Pfundstein - Go watch their play - it is excellent
I use that by way of an explanation for why this post is showing up now, rather than this morning. My daughter and I traveled to the Utah Shakespeare Festival to watch The Taming of the Shrew, starring Brian Vaughn as Petruchio and Melinda Pfundstein as Katherine. It was fabulous. If you get the chance, visit the festival. Now I want to do a Shakespeare edition of Bloody Basic in iambic pentameter. I'm not sure that's possible, but boy would it be a fun challenge.

And now that I've given some love to the USF, it's time for a review of The Dragon #27, published 36 years ago this month - time for a baby to be born, grow up, and begin yelling at kids born when 4th edition was published to get off his lawn. As he should, the grubby little beggars.

The ads the issue opens up with aren't new, but I did notice this bit:

Great artifact of the size of the hobby 36 years ago.

The first article in this issue is "Agincourt: The Destruction of French Chivalry", a game review by Tim Kask. As he writes, "Ah yes, that's a Dunnigan game." As in James Dunnigan. As an avid reader of his excellent books How to Make War and The Quick and Dirty Guide to War, this piqued my interest in the game review (I also note that Al Nofi did the historical research - I love his CIC articles at Strategy Page). Kask praises how he makes the game feel like the period, reflecting the fact that the French mostly defeated themselves at Agincourt. He finds it both a very complex game, and a very playable game.

To my delight, the review was followed by an article from Dunnigan himself - "Agincourt: Designer's Notes". One extract:

"I would say the single most difficult aspect that I had to incorporate into the design of Agincourt, were the combined arms and doctrine factors that were critical to the outcome of the battle, This is best shown by looking at the rules covering crowding and fugitives and their effect
upon morale."

I note this, because it's similar to what I try to do with Bloody Basic and articles on fantasy campaigns in NOD (and not always successfully) - how do you interject the feel of the subject you're covering without making the game needlessly complicated. It brings to my mind the idea of first principals.

Keeping the theme alive, Steve Alvin now writes "The Political and Military Effects of Agincourt on the Hundred Years War". I love history - majored in it in college - and I know most war game buffs have at least some regard for it, but I wonder how popular articles like this were back in the day. I hope very. I wonder how they would play now?

Get your scissors out, because Jeff Swycaffer's article "Elementals and the Philosopher's Stone" has a full-color cutout. In the article he mentions the four elements of Greek philosophy and the elementals they inspired ... and then remarks on the twelve new types of elementals discovered by "a mad philosopher". These would be the quasi-elementals and/or para-elementals. I can never keep them straight. Swycaffer visualizes the placement of the elementals thus:

"To visualize the placement of the elementals in the scheme of reality, imagine a globe. The equator is divided into eight segments: air, cold, water, moisture, earth, heat, fire, and dry. Thus the circle is complete, with dryness adjacent to air. This is reasonable, as the alchemists of the 1200s depicted the elements in this fashion. Here water is both cold and moist, and both air
and fire are dry.

This is merely the plane of the equator, however. At the south pole, evil. Good and evil are the poles of the physical world, and no one element is more evil than good, or vice versa."

He then goes on to explain how the elements interact with good and evil - these are the qualities, which include pleasure, fertility, beginning, light, ending, darkness, pain and barren. He explains that the "elementals of good and evil" are the demons of Eldritch Wizardry, D&D Supplement III and the angels of Stephen H. Domeman that appears in The Dragon #17. He then goes on to describe, in basic terms, the elementals of qualities. For example:

"ENDING: Appears as a normal human. Closes doors (as a wizard lock), dispels good magic, and curses as an Evil High Priest."

For those who need to know, the Ending Elemental has 2 HD, movement of 9, does 1d6 damage per hit, has AC 9 (remember, this is old "lower is better" AC), and is friends with air, water and cold elementals.

"From the Sorcerer's Scroll" this month is by a guest writer - Bob Bledsaw. He created a little something called Judge's Guild, which produced some of the great little gems of the OD&D era. He covers all the things JG had done at that time for D&D - a nice little bit of horn blowing, but well deserved I think. I liked this quote:

“Ya don’t tug on Superman’s cape, and ya don’t mess around with the play balance ...”

Truer words were never spoken.

Next up is an "Out on a Limb". God, this is classic geek-fight material, and it should surprise nobody that these are the folks that invented the internet. An example, from an extremely long letter to the editor by Ray Rahman of Minnesota. The first paragraph of his letter:

"Upon reading Mark Cummings’ review of Ralph Bakshi’s film THE LORD OF THE RINGS, I became as concerned about Mr. Cummings’ ethics as he was of Mr. Bakshi’s morals. His review of the film begins dramatically with the statement: “Your film is a ripoff! Yes, rip off! I know that the expression has moral connotations, and that you haven’t done anything wrong legally; but I happen to believe that moral obligations often make demands that go beyond the demands of laws. So stay with me for a few paragraphs, and I’ll explain why your film is immoral ... Let me start by saying that I’M not an outraged purist.”


Next up is an ad for Boot Hill, a game I know little about but would love to explore. I've been hankering to do a sort of Old West Bloody Basic, but I'm waiting until Grit & Vigor is finished so I can base it on those rules.

Gary Jordan now presents a variant that might delight fans of the recent Marvel movies, "Tesseracts: A Traveller Artifact". The idea is using these not as a way to confuse mappers (as they had previously been presented to DM's), but as a boon to the players of Traveller. Really, it comes down to using matter transmitters to move folks around a ship.

Up next is a new cartoon to The Dragon called "The Voyages of Exploration Ship Znutar, A Starship on a Mission of Empire". I don't remember this from the era of Dragon magazines I grew up in, so I wonder how long it survived.

Gary Jordan now chimes in with another Traveller article on Star System Generation. This is a scheme for filling hex maps, filling in the presence of planets, star ports, etc.

In the Designer's Forum, "Divine Right" is covered again (it was TSR's newest game), by Glenn and Kenneth Rahman (there's that name again - can't be a coincidence, can it?).

Lance Harrop now presents "A Quick Look at Dwarves". This is a long article on how dwarf armies are organized, with an accompanying chart.

Wow - they got into it in the old days, didn't they. Still, there are lots of great ideas - the dwarven engineers, miners, masons, etc. forming divisions of the army. He adds the following at the end of the article:

On Painting Dwarves: Elite units of dwarves should have white beards (reminds me of the Graybeards units in Warhammer), dwarf armor should be shiny and a mix of metals, dwarves don't seem to have national colors ("don't seem" - well, they aren't real, so I suppose they don't) but use colors to designate individuals, and whatever you do, don't make your dwarves too gaudy.

On Dwarvish Tactics: Vanguards always drive towards the dwarf commander, dwarves love to tear into orcs, dwarf morale is very slow to break and dwarves are known to leave the field of battle after their leader is killed, but they do not rout - they just walk off slowly, carrying his body.

The Design Forum continues now with Jay Facciolo writing about "The Emerald Tablet". This is a miniatures war game published by Creative Wargames Workshop (side note - imagine how many games there are out there that have never been cloned, for good or ill). I love the name. The game was an attempt to make something that was neither too specific or vague, and which incorporated magic into the rules, rather than just overlaying magic atop ancient or medieval warfare. If nothing else, you have to appreciate the cover I found at BoardGameGeek.

It sounds like an interesting take, with each unit in the game begin given one of four orders before the game begins - attack, skirmish, hold or support (another unit). These orders can only be changed during the game by one of the figures representing the players. Interesting idea, and requires a great deal of thought before the game starts. The magic segment of the game requires quite a lot of explanation, and appears to be, if not complicated, then at least engrossing. It even comes with a bibiolography (and a bit of cheesecake)

"Giants in the Earth", one of my favorite features, comes next. I really need to do something like this myself in NOD - maybe I should let people vote on G+.

This edition includes the following literary giants:

Alan Garner's DURATHROR (13th level fighter/Dwarvish paladin)

Fritz Leiber's FAFHRD (20th level fighter/8th level thief) and THE GRAY MOUSER (18th level fighter-thief)

Edgar Rice Burrough's JOHN CARTER OF MARS (30th level fighter)

Eh - never heard of 'em.

Robert Camino writes "Go Boldly Where No Man Has Gone Before: Expanding Imperium". This is a variant which requires two sets of the game, the boards being connected by eight jump routes which are always charted by the players (whatever that refers to). Love the art!

Great advert comes next, for Tome of Treasures, published by GRP Enterprises of Arlington, VA. The tagline got me "Plumb the depths of the Cube of Time and the Bow of Precognition. Explore the effects on hapless orcs of the Sword of Rout. Gems, jewelry, and 172 brand new, quality magic items are described ..."

Jerome Arkenberg now presents "The Mythos of Africa in Dungeons & Dragons". This is one heck of a tricky subject, as treating Africa as though it a single culture is ridiculous. The article presents many gods. For creatures, we get:

"In this category fall: witches, ghosts, were-lions, were-hyenas, and fairies. These are all the same as in the D&D Monster Manual."

 Turns out, we had all the African monsters we ever needed. I have a feeling that either the article was too long and something had to be cut, or the research was just too difficult back in the 1970's. The article also includes many heroes.

The "Dragon's Bestiary" presents the Horast, created by Mary Lynn Skirvin. Also known as a "whipper beast", a very rare creature with a whip-like tail that deals 4d6 damage. This one didn't make it into the MM, but fear not, for the article ends with this:

"By gracious arrangement with the author of AD&D, Gary Gygax, monsters appearing in this column are to be considered OFFICIAL AD&D MONSTERS."

So, if you need a monster with a whip tail, D&D has you covered. Officially.

Comic strip time. We have Finieous Fingers (their spelling, not mine), which again includes some nudity of the female variety - D&D was a game for grown-ups, after all.

No, I'm not going to show it this time. Finieous' butt from the last post will have to suffice.

In "Bazaar of the Bizarre" (the elements are all coming together, aren't they), Gygax presents the Bag of Wind. Write your own jokes, folks.

Dig the back cover, kids:

Looks like I need to up my game with NOD.

Fun issue, with plenty for D&D'ers and war gamers. Check it out if you can find a copy.

Wednesday, July 15, 2015

Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile ...

Before we get to the random table, I'd like to announce that Bloody Basic - Sinew & Steel Edition is now up for sale at as a PDF (the book will follow). This is basic role-playing without the magic - imagine if the original fantasy game had been based on the medieval war game rules without the fantasy supplement included.

Races are exchanged for Social Ranks, classes are Armsman, Scholar and Villein, and to make up for all the space normally taken up by spells, fantasy monsters and magic items, I included some simple rules for mass combat, sieges, jousting and archery tournaments. The rules are still pretty short, so the book only costs $6.99 - not too bad. Click on the title to check it out at Lulu.

I should get NOD 26 up for sale tonight as a PDF. When I get my review copies, the books will follow. More on that later.

And now, back to our regularly scheduled program ...

What I Found Under the Loose Dungeon Floor Tile (Roll d20)

1. A yawning abyss – it is cold, and light flute music can be heard from within it

2. A giant, leering eye

3. A rope loop – pull it to set off all the traps on this level of the dungeon

4. A wooden box – holds …
     A. The ashen remains of a vampire
     B. Mummy bandages
     C. Incense cubes – varying scents, one casts a cloudkill spell
     D. Candle stubs – one holds a key to an important room in this dungeon
     E. Chicken bones
     F. Shuriken, one is a +1 shuriken
     G. 1 week of iron rations
     H. A vial of holy water
     I. A collection of glass eyes
     J. Silver pince-nez

5. An iron strong box – holds …
     A. Copper coins – ancient and verdigrised
     B. Silver coins – all pierced and defaced
     C. Gold coins – the edges have been sharpened
     D. Silk handkerchiefs (5)
     E. A velvet glove (allows a single vampiric touch then decays into dust)
     F. Shards of delicious peanut brittle

6. Goop – smells terrible, stains skin and clothes muddy purple – treat as stinking cloud

7. Green slime – actually forms a layer under the entire floor, and will bubble up through the cracks at an inopportune time

8. Last will and testament of a high level adventurer

9. Map of a lower level (incomplete)

10. Intense light (save vs. blindness)

11. Nothing – but causes a steel cage to materialize around the adventurers

12. Nothing – but removing it causes the dungeon illusion the adventurers have been in to disappear, revealing they are in an alien laboratory (break out Star Frontiers!)

13. An oil slick (Texas tea!) - begins pouring up and soon covers most of this level of the dungeon (same effect as grease spell)

14. An intelligent +2 dagger with a note – the dagger will obey so long as its wielder commits to assassinating a local dignitary or royal within 1 week; turns into a -2 cursed dagger if this is not done

15. A long, narrow shaft to a pocket dungeon level or just a lower level of the dungeon

16. A grasping hand on a long arm (treat as a ghoul or wight)

17. A silver spike driven into the ground – it was driven into a vampire's heart, which will regenerate if the silver spike is removed

18. A carved stone that tells the dungeon’s history (or fills in gaps in the characters' knowledge)

19. Black tentacles (per the spell) erupt from the floor

20. A portal back to the dungeon entrance (works once, afterwards, it just sends people to random rooms on deeper levels)

Sunday, July 12, 2015

Dragon by Dragon - June 1979

Two years ago, I was writing a series of weekly blog posts on the old issues of Dragon magazine - something like reviews with a bit of crunch mixed in. And then I stopped. And I don't remember why.

Well, now I'm starting again. So ... journey back in time with me to June of 1979, when the Bee Gees were dominating the charts with Love You Inside Out ...

(Please find it in your heart to include this in a game as a weird chant of chaos cultists - your players will be stunned; and now I have to restrain myself from posting the Osmond Brother's Crazy Horses)

... and Americans are enjoying themselves at the movies with the recently released Alien and Phantasm (and Wanda Nevada, whatever the heck that is).

Oh - that's Wanda Nevada. Brooke Shields. Groovy.

Anyhow - into this golden age of entertainment comes Dragon Magazine, Volume III, No. 12 with a kickin' cover depicting some Napoleonic war game action, and of course much more. Let's dive right in.

The first thing we're greeted with is a great full-page Ral Partha advert, noting that "The Little Things Make a Noticeable Difference". If you're in my generation of gamers, Ral Partha is just branded into your brain. They were so prevalent in the pages of magazines, and had some great adverts. Honestly, I never messed with miniatures back in the day. I got into the Citadel stuff in late high school and through college, and bought a few Ral Partha minis then, but I really missed the companies hey day. Alas.

On the contents page, we are made aware that this issue marks the beginning of Gay Jaquet's reign as assistant editor, assisting T. J. Kask, that is. I note this only to point out that TSR appears to be growing.

Another ad now, for the Origins! 79 convention in Chester, Pennsylvania. Do you think the geeks that now trod those halls know the gaming history of the place? Probably not.

Looks like a cool college - love the brick work. I'm from Las Vegas - we live in a world of stucco and sandstone, so the brick stuff always impresses me. What can I say - I'm a cheap date.

Next, we have a status update on Gencon XII, and a notice that they're looking for judges and events for the con. We also get a full con schedule, some prices on back issues of The Dragon (back issues are $2.10 a pop, or $6.88 in today's dollars. Not a bad price).

Oh yeah - and a McLean cartoon involving the confusion between rocs and rocks. I love watching his art style grow in these early issues. There was some solid young talent in gaming back in the day. I wonder what they paid him per cartoon?

Now we reach the first article - "System 7 Napoleonics: Miniatures Meet Boards", by Kask. I'm not going to delve too deeply into the article itself, which reviews the game System 7 Napoleonics by GDW, which uses cardboard counters in place of miniatures, and is thus cheap compared to using the lead, but I will point this out:

"The problem with establishing a campaign in a college club, whether it be D&D; TRAVELER, or a Napoleonics, is one of continuity. Each semester, some of the stalwarts say goodbye and depart for “the real world.” This can be especially traumatic if one of those departing owns the French Army, or what passed for it in terms of collective club figures."

Funny to think how wrapped up the game used to be with issues like this. I suppose it still goes on to this day - maybe some college kids could chime in in the comments below and let us know if they still deal with this. Personally, I'm an old fart, and I do my gaming on G+ these days.

This article is followed up by another article on System 7, by Rich Banner (the designer), called "Necessity is the Mother of Innovation". If you were into this new game, this was your lucky month, because this article is followed up by a Q&A with Banner.

Speaking of GDW (or Game Designers' Workshop), we are now treated to a full page ad for their new expansion for Traveler, Imperium - Empires in Conflict: Worlds in the Balance. Great title.

From the Dungeon Hobby Shop in Lake Geneva (no longer there, I'm afraid), we have an ad for 4th Dimension, the Game of Time & Space, produced by TSR (sort of - click here for more). Apparently, you play a Time-Lord (does the hyphen grant immunity from BBC law suits?) commanding an army of Guardians, Rangers and Warriors in some sort of board game battle.

Next we get back into some D&D goodness, with "Giants in the Earth". Great series of articles, giving game stats to literary characters (why don't I do that in NOD?). This is a particular goody, because we get Jack Vance's Cugel the Clever (14th level thief, Str 15, Int 18 (56%), Wis 13, Dex 18 (93%), Con 15, Cha 16 - sounds like Vance was cheating on his dice rolls when he rolled up Cugel, and what's with the percentiles - I thought they only did that with Strength scores in AD&D?), Karl Edward Wagner's Kane (30th level fighter, 20th level magic-user, 14th level assassin - how many XP would that take?) and Talbot Mundy's Tros of Samothrace (15th level paladin). I love Cugel, I've heard of Kane (but never read him), but Tros was new to me.

Ah - this is included:

Note: For the game purposes of these heroes: Dexterity 18 (00) gives +4 on Reaction/Attacking, -5 Defensive adjustment and three attacks per round for high level fighters. Constitution 18 (00) gives fighters +4.5 per hit die bonus

Oh, and Judge's Guild (hallowed be their name) was hawking the Treasury of Archaic Names by Bill Owen. Struggle no longer for heroic character names!

Up next, "What of the Skinnies?" by James W. S. Marvin, a Starship Troopers variant. Not going to lie - caught a bit of the movie, never read the book, have never laid eyes on the game they're referencing here. This might be the greatest article on the topic ever, and I'll never know it. Moving on.

Edward C. Cooper gives some tips on "The Placement of Castles" in Lord and Wizard. Article aside, L&W sounds like a pretty cool game: "Mighty, magical holocausts, awe-inspiring Dragons, weird and terrible monsters, military battles on a grand scale. Which of the combatants, Order or Chaos, shall win? And can the forces of Neutrality maintain the precarious balance of power . . . An exciting, fast moving game of movement and combat in a fantastic world, where skill and strategy will decide the winner." Another board game - the RPG's are still in their infancy, after all, and at this point most RPG'ers have probably come to the game from board games and miniature war gaming. Makes sense.

Joe Curreri writes "35th Anniversary of D-Day Remembered". There were lots more veterans of that day alive at the time, and their kids were the ones playing all these silly games. The page also has an ad for Lyle's Hobby & Craft Center in Westmont, Illinois. Sadly, also no longer there.

In the Design Forum, James McMillan writes about "The Solo Berserker for William the Conqueror-1066". This article presents solitaire rules for the aforementioned game, with a little history on the berserkers. He includes the note that Eystein Orre, one of Harald Hadrada's men, was called "the Gorcock". If you're reading this and play a barbarian or berserker in some game, please consider renaming your character "the Gorcock". For me. For Eystein. For America.

Next up, David Sweet presents game stats for "Chinese Undead". We have stats for Lower Souls, Lost Souls, Vampire-Spectres, Sea Bonze, Celestial Stags and Goat Demons. Boy, stats were simple in those days:

Also this:

Look out!

Fantasy 15s has a full page ad for 15mm miniatures allowing you to "re-create the mass battles of Middle Earth - at prices you can afford!" I wonder if there's a source for cheap men-at-arms so fighter lords can do the same thing. The reproduction ain't great, but the art in the ad is pretty cool ...

The next article includes Boot Hill additions, revisions, and triva (!) by Michael Crane. The have a great "Fast Exact Hit Location Chart" that could be useful for duels, but also just combat in general (especially missile combat):

And, because it wouldn't be a real D&D mag from the old days ... "Another View of the Nine-Point Alignment Scheme" by Carl Parlagreco. This article tries to lay out what you can and cannot do with each alignment. Helping people is something Good characters do, apparently, while trusting in organizations is something for Lawfuls. Here are a couple samples:

Chaotic Good ... will keep their word to other of good alignment, will not attack an unarmed foe, will not use poison, will help those in need, prefers to work alone, responds poorly to higher authority, and is distrustful of organizations

Neutral Evil ... will not necessarily keep their word, would attack an unarmed foe, will use poison, will not help those in need, may work with others, is indifferent to higher authority, and is indifferent to organizations.

I think this is actually a much more useful way to look at alignment that getting philosophical with it, especially for people new to the game. Of course, you need a reward/penalty mechanism with alignment to make these strictures matter.

Next is Kevin Hendryx's "Deck of Fate", with illustrations by Grey Newberry. This is a great magical tarot card deck. Characters draw cards, and get magic results based on what they draw. For example:

II - Junon - The Goddess: No effect for non-clerics. For clerics, permanently boosts their Wisdom score to 18 and gains use of one spell of the next higher level.

In other words - it's a pretty powerful magic item - an artifact really. You could probably make one heck of a quest into a band of adventurers having to retrieve all of these magic cards.

Rick Krebs now provides "D&D Meets the Electronic Age". Boy, they had no idea. Dig it:

Over the years access to photocopiers and mimeograph machines have aided many Dungeon Masters in copying maps, charts and even publishing their own zines, all to the expansion of their campaign. But, the recent electronics explosion has now brought another tool to those DMs fortunate to have access to them: the micro-computer. We were one of those fortunate groups to gain the use of a 4K (4,000 bit) memory, BASIC speaking microcomputer.
Charles Sagui now writes "Hirelings Have Feelings Too". It's a short article that provides some guidelines for paying hirelings to keep them around. According to Charles, hirelings should be payed two years salary in advance, plus a share of the spoils - either an equal share, or a percentage. Non-humans, he says, will not hire on for salary alone - except orcs - but will also demand to be supplied with equipment and weapons to go into the dungeon. Elves, he says, don't like to go into dungeons as hirelings - they like fresh air and trees too much. They don't care much for gold, but they will demand a fine cut gem or magic item + 15% of treasure. Dwarves can be greedy at times - they want four years salary and 15% of treasure. And if you try to give a +3 returning warhammer to somebody else, there's a 65% chance the dwarf will try to steal it. Orcs will go in for one year salary and 2-5% of treasure, and will only work for chaotics. They are prone to run away when confronted with a difficult fight and have a bad habit of killing their employer in his sleep and stealing all his stuff. I guess turn-about it fair play in a dungeon.

Charles also says that hireling NPCs will only go into the dungeon once - after that, they retire to blow their hard-earned gold on "strong drink and their favorite vice." Once their money is gone, they might go back in with the PC's - and if the PC's paid well last time, they'll be more loyal. Loyalty ratings for hirelings aren't used much these days, but they were an important system in a time when hirelings and henchmen were the norm for D&D.

Michael Crane also contributes "Notes from a Very Successful D&D Moderator". This is a chance, he says, for the moderators (i.e. game masters) to share their tips and tricks after many players have shared ideas for beating dungeons. The article is pretty much about one-upmanship between the DM and the players. A nice historical piece, from when the game was (and was supposed to be) a competition between the DM and the players.

Gary Gygax now chimes in with his "From the Sorcerer's Scroll" with "D&D, AD&D and Gaming". The article discusses the origins of role-playing games, of fantasy war gaming, and of role-playing within fantasy war gaming. It's a nice retrospective, and Dave Arneson's innovation of giving players individual roles to play is mentioned. Gygax also takes pains to explain that AD&D is a different game than D&D - not an expansion or revision. As Gygax explains:

"Where D&D is a very loose, open framework around which highly imaginative Dungeon Masters can construct what amounts to a set of rules and game of their own choosing, AD&D is a much tighter and more structured game system."

Which also explains why I like D&D better than AD&D. I like my games loose and imaginative. The article lays out the future of AD&D. And then this towards the end:

"For those of you who wondered why I took certain amateur publishing efforts to task, it was because they were highly insulting to TSR, D&D, this magazine, and myself."

Nerd fights. They never end.

Kevin Hendryx now presents a variant game for D&D in the modern era called "Mugger!". Welcome to the 1970's. Technically, it is Mugger! The Game of Tactical Inter-City Combat, 1979. Each player plays a mugger, gaining experience for each successful mugging and gathering loot. The goal is to "... amass as large a horde of experience points as possible while carrying out one's crimes and eventually gain a seat in the U.S. Congress ..." The times, they ain't a changin' all that much, are they?

Random encounters include 1d2 cops on their beat, 1d3 roving squad cars, 1d6 tougher muggers, 1d8 street gangs, 1d20 Hare Krishna fanatics and 4d6 stray dogs.

Oh, and you pick up 1,000 XP for stealing 10 kg of plutonium.

Here's the level chart:

It's actually a pretty long article, and though tongue-in-cheek would probably be fun to play one night with some friends. It strikes me that the old city map from Marvel Super-Heroes would come in handy on this one.

Lots of articles in this issue. Next is "Birth Tables and Social Status" for Empire of the Petal Throne, by G. Arthur Rahman. EPT was still a major component in gaming in this period, and its generally featured in every issue of The Dragon. It provides a very long table for generating birth and social status, and this translates into skills, spells and the like for the character. Looks good to me.

Apparently, Grenadier was pushing their new line of licensed Gamma World miniatures with a full page ad. You can see some unpainted models HERE and some painted ones HERE.

Len Lakofka's "Bazaar of the Bizarre" is "Blueprint for a Lich" in this issue. This is an in-depth article on how high level magic-users and clerics become liches, including a recipe that involves 2 pinches of pure arsenic and 1 measure of fresh wyvern venom (under 60 days old). Don't mix this one up at home, kiddies.

The would-be lich then drinks the concoction and rolls the D%

1-10: No effect whatsoever, other than all body hair falling out
11-40: Come for 2-7 days - the potion works!
41-70: Feebleminded until dispelled by dispel magic. Each attempt to remove the feeblemind has a 10% chance to kill the drinker if it fails. The potion works!
71-90: Paralyzed for 4-14 days. 30% chance of permanent loss of 1d6 dexterity points. The potion works!
91-96: Permanently deaf, dumb or blind. Only a full wish can regain the sense. The potion works!
97-00: DEAD - star over ... if you can be resurrected.

First - I can actually use this in the online game I'm running.

Second - awesome random table for generating liches - they're either a bit paralyzed, could be blind or deaf, or maybe are completely normal. Side-effects are a good idea for major potions.

Gary Gygax now provides tables for "Putting Together a Party on the Spur of the Moment". This generates a PC party quickly, with tables and rules for generating quick ability scores, level, armor, weapons and magic items. I think this made it into the DM's Guide. Which DMG you ask - come on, there's really only one.

Thomas Holsinger provides a "Strength Comparison Table". He provides a strength table from 0 to 18/00, with monster equivalents, hit bonuses and damage bonuses. It's inspired by Dave Hargrave's Arduin Grimoire II. FYI - Leprechauns are stronger than Brownies, and Pixies are stronger than Leprechauns, just in case you were going to run an all-fey remake of Over the Top. (Google it!)

Jeff Neufeld now provides a review of a play-by-mail game called Tribes of Crane (which is mis-written as Tribes of Tome in the first sentence). We also have reviews of Ice War. (Soviet/US confrontation), Mercenary (a Traveller book), The Battle of Monmouth and Grenadier Figure Packs and a very long review of Battle Sphere with lots of cool illustrations.

The Dragon's Bestiary (formerly Featured Creature) presents the barghest, so you now know which decade to blame for those little bastards.

Next comes "The Adventures of Fineous Fingers, Fred & Charly".

Who says old school fantasy is all about scantily clad females?

Great article title by Rod Stephens - "The Thief: A Deadly Annoyance". Amen to that. He laments the misuse of thieves in dungeons, because they're really meant for urban environments, where they can steal from high-level NPC's and other players - because PC's have more money than just about anybody in the game. He isn't wrong.

We finish up with some full page ads for GenCon XII, TSR's new game Divine Right (notes that T.M. Reg. has been applied for - so don't try anything funny) and Space Gamer (subscribe to get a free game - Ogre, Chitin I, Melee, WarpWar or Rivets).

A packed issue, and a reminder that The Dragon was a full-bodied gaming magazine at the time, and not just TSR's house organ.

Hope you enjoyed the review - have a happy Sunday and a great week ahead.

Oh - and I couldn't resist ... your ear holes will not thank me!

Tuesday, July 7, 2015

More Monsters I Just Made Up

First - I should get the Bloody Basic Sinew & Steel Edition up for sale in the next couple days, along with the next issue of NOD - number 26. Just finishing things up, last bits of editing, etc. BB Weird Fantasy is next, and then I delve into Grit & Vigor and get that bad boy done and up for sale.

Now, on to the monsters ...

Large Construct, Neutral (N), Non-Intelligent; Squad (1d4)

Hit Dice: 10
Armor Class: 20 [+1]
Attack: 2 claws (2d6 damage)
Move: 20
Saves: F9 R10 W10
XP: 1000 (CL 11)

Engines of Hell are monstrous, brazen constructs operated by imps. They are armored suits of bronze and brass, often of monstrous shape and form, and glowing red hot. Smoke escapes from the nostrils fashioned on the engine’s brazen head. The imp sits within the chest cavity, operating the construct with levers and chains.

Engines of Hell have no minds of their own. They are under the control of the imp. If the imp is removed, killed, etc. the construct ceases operating. Attacks that require a Will save that are directed against the pilot imp must be made by the pilot imp, not the construct.

All Engines of Hell have the above basic statistics. In addition, they can choose one of the following modifications from each category:

Cannon Arms: The construct can make 1d8 damage slam attacks with its cannon arms at a -1 penalty (they are clumsy), but can also use them to fire cannonballs (3d6 damage, 100’ range) up to three times per arm.

Chain Hands: The construct has 10-ft chains instead of hands, allowing it to slash targets up to 10 feet away for 1d8 damage.

Crushing Grip: The construct’s claw attacks constrict on a successful hit.

Jackhammer Hands: The construct’s hands are actually jackhammers, doubling its attacks and dealing 1d8 damage. In addition, hits warded away by armor or shields force those items to pass a saving throw or be made useless.

Battering Ram: Construct gains a gore attack for 1d8 damage.

Flame Belcher: Construct can, three times per day, belch forth a 10’ cone of fire for 3d6 damage.

Gnashing Jaws: Construct gains a bite attack for 1d8 damage.

Quake Makers: One per day, the construct can produce the same effect as the stomp spell, non-magically.

Raking Claws: The construct gain an addition claw attack for 2d6 damage with its feet.

Rocket Boots: The construct can, once per day, fire boot rockets and leap a distance and height equal to 100 feet (i.e. 100 feet high, straight up, 100 feet distant without really leaving the ground, 50 feet high and 50 feet distant, etc.).

Special Qualities: Immune to fire, vulnerable to cold, magic resistance 10%

Medium Outsider, Neutral (N), Average Intelligence; Solitary

Hit Dice: 12
Armor Class: 18 [+1]
Attack: 4 +1 scimitars (1d8+1 + bleed)
Move: 30 (Fly 20)
Save: F11 R12 W11
XP: 700 (CL 8)

Lady lions are mortal versions of Sekhmet, the goddess of slaughter and vengeance. Delivered unto the Material Plane by the gods or other similar powers, they are intended to cut a swathe of death as a means of reminding people of their mortality and their inferior position to the gods. On some occasions, they are brought to the Material Plane to complete a quest, and in this capacity might work with or against the player characters.

Lady lions look like tall female humanoids with faces that suggest the ferocity and grandeur of the lioness. Their limbs are long and muscular, their bodies powerful and lean. Lady lions wear armor of steel cords and wield twin +1 scimitars, attacking twice per round with each scimitar.

The lady lion’s magical scimitars cause bleeding wounds. Those struck who fail a Fortitude saving throw begin losing one point of constitution per round from blood loss until magical healing is applied. The TK should keep track of lost constitution points. For every three points of lost constitution, from whatever source, the lady lion can animate the blood into a monster per the spell summon monster I. The monster in question looks as though it were composed of blood, but will otherwise act as a normal monster of its type. These blood monsters, if they do not attack, can merge forms into more powerful monsters, essentially combining their hit dice and taking a new, appropriate form. Two 1 HD giant blood rats, for example, could form into a 2 HD blood wolf. These monsters can be dispelled, but reformed a round later. Once formed, they do not have to be controlled by the lady lion, and can combine on their own, without direction (i.e. without the lady lion having to forgo attacking for a round).

Once per day, a lady lion can transform herself, for one round, into a blade barrier.

Special Qualities: Resistance to fire and electricity, magic resistance 15%

Huge Magical Beast, Neutral (N), Animal Intelligence; Solitary

Hit Dice: 9
Armor Class: 16
Attacks: Bite (1d10 + swallow whole)
Move: 30
Saves: F6 R9 W14
XP: 900 (CL 10)

Megalars are huge reptiles with big feet. They have a rather flat body profile, and walk low to the ground. Wherever a megalar stomps a foot (they can stomp two feet per round), a jet of hot, flammable gasses explodes from the ground. This is, essentially, a one-way portal to the Elemental Plane of Combustion. These pillars deal 1d6 points of fire damage to all within 10 feet due to their extreme temperature, and burst into flames if they contact an open fire. A flaming pillar burns for one turn, dealing 2d6 damage to the touch, and 1d6 damage to all within 10 feet.

Special Qualities: Immune to fire

Medium Outsider, Neutral (N), Average Intelligence; Solitary

Hit Dice: 8
Armor Class: Varies
Attacks: Varies
Move: Varies
Saves: F9 R9 W9
XP: 800 (CL 9)

A nemesis is an extraplanar spirit called into the Material Plane to punish a mortal creature. They are usually summoned by powerful clerics or magic-users, or they are sent by extraplanar powers. A nemesis’ form varies with the creature it is fighting.

Against warriors and monsters that primarily rely on, the nemesis seals itself in a shell of living steel. It has AC 22 and attacks with weapons formed from the living steel –any two one-handed weapons, dealing +2 damage with each. The steel-form nemesis has a movement rate of 20 and is immune to all combat maneuvers.

Against clerics and druids, the nemesis takes on a necrotic form, resembling a lich, though not undead. In this form it attacks twice per round, dealing 2d6 points of negative energy damage each round and enjoying magic resistance 35% against divine magic. The necrotic form has AC 18 [Silver], a movement rate of 30 and is immune to negative energy damage.

Against magic-users and sorcerers, the nemesis takes on a pure energy form. Each round, it can produce an effect equal to a level 0 or first level spell. Three times per day, it can produce an effect equal to a 2nd to 4th level spell. Once per day, it can produce an effect equal to a 5th to 6th level spell. In energy form, the nemesis has AC 17 [+1] and a movement rate of 30 (Fly 60). They are immune to fire and electricity damage.

Against thieves and assassins, the nemesis takes on a shadow form. In shadow form, they automatically hide in shadows and move silently. They have AC 16 [Silver] and a movement rate of 60. Shadow nemeses attack with two shadow daggers that deal 1d4 damage and force a fortitude saving throw to avoid being chilled to the heart (1d4 constitution damage, stunned for one round). They can backstab for triple damage.

The nemesis can change its form once per round. They are single-minded in their quests to punish or destroy. When their quest is complete, or they are destroyed, they return to their plane of origin in the Pleiades Star Cluster.

Medium Construct, Neutral (N), Non-Intelligent; Solitary

Hit Dice: 6
Armor Class: 18
Attacks: 2 slams (1d8) or 4 rays (60'/see below)
Move: 30
Saves: F12 R12 W12
XP: 600 (CL 7)

A vasculon is a construct composed of human veins, arteries, ganglia and nervous system encased inside a humanoid shaped glassy-steel shell. In place of eyes, the vasculon as four bloodstones set on its head. Each round that it does not attack physically, it can fire scarlet rays from these eyes at up to four separate targets. These rays ignore armor, and have the following effects:

Boil Blood: 2d6 fire damage; Fortitude save for half

Freeze Blood: 1d6 cold damage; slowed (as spell) for 1d4 rounds

Gout of Blood: Creature bleeds from its orifices, 1d6 damage plus 1 point of Con damage

Manipulate Humors: Creature struck with fear (as cause fear spell), crushing despair (as spell) or rage (as spell)

Each ray can only be used once per round, and each ray must be directed at a different target. Attacks against the bloodstones are made against AC 20, and each bloodstone has 20 hit points.

Special Qualities: Magic resistance 10%

Tiny Aberration, Neutral (N), Low Intelligence; Solitary

Hit Dice: 3
Armor Class: 18
Attacks: Electric arc (60'/1d6 damage + one level energy damage + shift consciousness)
Move: 0 (Fly 60)
Saves: F17 R13 W13
XP: 750 (CL 5)

Zordoks look like glowing spheres surrounded by orbiting motes of light, not unlike the way atoms are sometimes fancifully depicted. A zordok can launch a lightning bolt attack that, if it hits, transfers its consciousness into a living person. The person then gains the Galvanized template (see below), and also suffers one level of energy damage. This energy damage increases the zordok’s size by one step (+1 HD, +2 damage) and increases its intelligence by one step (low to average, average to high, high to super).

The zordok can move its consciousness from body to body by firing its electrical arcs. Each time it does, the new target suffers one level of energy damage and the zordok’s original body becomes larger and more intelligent.

If the host of the zordok’s consciousness is killed or knocked unconscious, the zordok’s body is turned into a tiny adamantine sphere. The creature will reconstitute itself in 1d4 days at its original 3 HD power level.

Special Qualities: Immune to electricity, resistance to fire and cold


A galvanized creature is immune to electricity and can use the shocking hands and levitate spells at will. If grounded, they must pass a Fortitude saving throw or be knocked unconscious for 1d6 rounds.
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